Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tribute to Rajesh Khanna (1942 to 2012) Part - 2

NEW DELHI, July 18: He carried his fame lightly. He was a stout-hearted Punjabi from Amritsar who probably forgot to take care of his liver and perished at 69 to its seductions. Women flirted with his images for all of the two decades or more when he ruled Mumbai’s film industry as India’s first and possibly only superstar. Female fans worshipped his framed pictures and slit their wrists when he married Dimple Kapadia, a one-movie starlet in 1973, when she was half his age. Rajiv Gandhi, in his last political duty before flying to his death in Tamil Nadu, came to vote for him when he switched from films to politics in the 1991 parliamentary elections. Rajesh Khanna was narrowly defeated in that election from New Delhi by opposition leader L.K. Advani. But when Advani quit the seat in favour of his election from Gandhinagar in Gujarat, Rajesh Khanna easily beat rival and fellow actor Shatrughan Sinha in the ensuing contest to enter parliament. He had replaced Amitabh Bachchan as the Gandhi family’s Mumbai mascot. Naturally, Sonia Gandhi grieved Rajesh Khanna’s death in Mumbai on Wednesday and so did Prime Minister Manmohan Singh among millions of Indians. In Pakistan, special programmes were broadcast by TV channels to mark the passing of an era. Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf described him as a “great actor”. Ordinary fans from across the border took to social networking websites to share their sorrow and memories. In a special message, Prime Minister Ashraf said Khanna was “a great actor whose contribution to the field of films and arts would be long remembered”. REFERENCE: In death, Rajesh Khanna unites India, Pakistan Jawed Naqvi | 19th July, 2012

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He said Khanna had a “large fan following across the borders and captivated audiences with his excellent acting skills”. He said he shared the grief of the bereaved family. In a message to Khanna’s daughter Twinkle, Prime Minister Singh recalled the fame of the late actor and noted that his popularity as a romantic hero in the 1960s and 1970s is a part of our film folklore. Observing that Khanna was a celebrated artiste who entertained millions of Indians with his performance in a variety of films, Dr Singh said: “His legacy will live on in the form of the numerous entertaining and acclaimed films that he leaves behind.” The prime minister noted that the late actor was called the first superstar of the Indian cinema and the powerful roles he essayed in classics like Anand, Aradhana, Kati Patang and Amar Prem stand testimony to his artistic genius. Some years ago, the new reigning movie star Shahrukh Khan had described Rajesh Khanna as the only superstar the Indian film industry ever had. REFERENCE: In death, Rajesh Khanna unites India, Pakistan Jawed Naqvi | 19th July, 2012

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Bollywood superstar Rajesh Khanna, who passed away last week after a prolonged illness, was the first actor to give 15 super-hit flicks in three years.
As the winner of the United Producers Talent Contest in 1965, Rajesh Khanna had come a long way. He was a not overtly handsome, yet ’70s actresses like Waheeda Rehman desired to be cast opposite him. He didn’t have the ideal built of a he-man, yet no other actor has since commanded a female following like him. Above all, he wasn’t even the best actor produced in India, but it was his charisma, a shake of the head and stylish antics that saw him leap over the likes of Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor as well as Dev Anand to super stardom. Born as Jatin Arora on December 29, 1942, and adopted by his father’s childless relatives, he was named Rajesh Khanna by his uncle so that he could do well in films. It is even said that after winning the talent contest, he went for auditions in an MG sports car, something unheard of in those days. Financially he was stronger than most of the leading men of his era, even before he landed blockbusters. Several reports from that era suggest that many girls in India married his photograph, applying their own blood as sindoor to solemnise the ceremony. Pampered in his youth and worshipped as an actor, Rajesh had an enviable career. His first movie, Aakhri Khat (1966) did well, but couldn’t rival the success of Shammi Kapoor’s Teesri Manzil or Dharmendra’s Phool Aur Pathar. His next few films — Raaz, Baharon Kay Sapne and Aurat — didn’t do well at the box office either. However, Aradhana (1969) started a chain reaction that saw him deliver hits after hits, including the songless Ittefaq and commercial flicks like Bandhan, Do Raaste, Khamoshi, The Train, Succha Jhoota, Safar, Kati Patang, Anand and Haathi Mere Saathi. He also gave screenwriters Salim-Javed (who later delivered hits like Sholay, Kaala Pathar and Shakti) their first break in Haathi Mere Saathi. Even Amitabh Bachchan admits that before he became an actor, he was a Rajesh Khanna fan. Rajesh Khanna adjusted comfortably into any role offered to him — be it the sculptor in his debut movie Aakhri Khat, the air force pilot in Aradhna, the cancer patient in Anand, the forest office in Kati Patang, the cook in Bawarchi or the working class hero of Namak Haram. Rajesh Khanna’s popularity suffered declined in the latter part of his career by way with his typical acting and inability to improvise in the films of the ’80s and beyond. — O.A. REFERENCE: Final farewell 29th July, 2012

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Located on the old road from Multan to Delhi, the town of Burewala in Vehari district in southern Punjab was once known primarily for the shrine of Hazrat Baba Haji Sher Dewan. Irrigated by the Pakpattan Canal during the British Raj, it became part of the fertile agricultural lands known as the Canal Colonies. It must have been a very small place, a kind of a qasba in the years leading up to partition. Since then, the productivity of land and the galloping population increase, have contributed to this once small town becoming fairly big even by Pakistani standards (its population was about 1,89,000 in 2006). It was in these environs that Rajesh Khanna was born in Burewala in 1942. His father Lala Hira Nand Khanna was the first headmaster of MC Model Boys High School there -- from April 1, 1931 until retiring on March 28, 1947, months before Partition. The headmaster must have struggled to instil the virtues of education to people more thrilled by the force of numbers and fascinated by shortcuts to wealth and fame. A board at the school still bears his name. Rajesh Khanna studied till Class 1 in the local primary school. His ancestral home, a two-storey structure with arched windows, still stands in Block H of Burewala. The name "Jatin Niwas" is still visible, inscribed in Hindi at the main gate of the family house, to which the current residents have made few changes. Next to it is an old temple. As Khanna's last rites began in Mumbai, Burewala residents gathered at MC Model High School to hold a condolence meeting, including a five-minute silence. REFERENCE: Rajesh Khanna of Burewala By Sarwat Ali Wednesday, July 25, 2012

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The family migrated along with millions after Partition to settle in Amritsar, the first urban settlement after crossing the lines drawn by Radcliffe. It was here that the young Rajesh Khanna must have gone to school and nurtured his dream of becoming a filmstar. The kind of fame and accolades that he drew must have been beyond his own imagination or expectations. From his first lovely debut with Akhri Khat to his first real box office hit Aradhana he must have struggled for a firm foothold in an industry that was planning a makeover into the third generation of films after independence, if Dilip Kumar represented the first generation and Shammi Kapoor the second. But in Aradhana, Sharmila Tagore and the compositions of S.D. Burman ushered in a new era not shy of tackling issues that the new educated middle classes in the cities were being confronted with. Still locked in the conflict of the traditional values with the demands of modernity, the first popular expression on the side of modernity came in the form of the films being made in the late nineteen sixties. Since Partition, Burewala has been famous for the textile industry. The town subsequently shot into limelight with the emergence of Waqar Younis, the fast bowler from the same town. Along with Wasim Akram, he struck terror in the heart of batsmen; the two dreaded Ws ran through many a batting line-up including the Indians.

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Cricketers and filmstars are popular across the divide. Pakistani fast bowlers, in particular, are the heartthrobs of fans on both sides and admired by connoisseurs of the game. Even when Indian films were totally banned in Pakistan, with no Amritsar television or video cassette recorders (VCRs) to provide a sneak peek, Pakistanis talked about Indian films and gossiped about the doings and misdoings of Bollywood stars. During that time, LPs and 78 rpm discs made music available to those who could afford such luxuries. Radio in India was one medium that broadcast Indian film music followed by avid listeners all over Pakistan. It can be said with great deal of certainty that the people in Pakistan lapped up whatever happened in Bombay, and to a lesser degree in Calcutta or Madras. Similarly, listeners across the border listened very critically to the songs of Noor Jehan and Mehdi Hasan. In fact, it was on radio that Lata Mangeshkar first heard Mehdi Hasan sing, and she could not help paying him the highest compliments.

The Khannas, a sub-section of the well-established Khatri clan of the Punjab, were active in many fields. They also lived in Lahore and were famous for their contribution to the field of education. Some had converted to Christianity and stayed back after Partition to continue doing what they could do best.

With Amritsar Television and then the advent of the VCR, Rajesh Khanna became the heartthrob of many women. They loved his cheekiness, his bold wooing and carefree mannerisms; with tearful eyes they sighed with him as he staggered seeking solace in the arms of Sharmila Tagore in Amar Prem. He was the innocent man, harmed as he went seeking love, often unsuccessfully. Men and women alike admired him for playing roles in films that did not fit into the boy-meet-girl sing and dance format, like his film Anand.

The late sixties and seventies saw the prime of Rajesh Khanna, as he made many a film which did well at the box office only because of his presence. This was also the time when Indian cinema made a comeback into the lives of Pakistanis, who till then had been forced to rely only on the written and spoken word. He symbolised the era in which people in Pakistan who had seen the films of Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand were reunited with productions emanating from the sub-continent's cinema capital. Looking back, we see that so many from the areas that are now in Pakistan headed towards Bombay; some stayed there. Rajesh Khanna also took this path via Amritsar because his family had moved there in after partition.

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